If you’re visiting the illustrated world of Henry Madsen, Helmetgirl will be your guide. Her illustrations and sketches are distinctive and there’s an almost Tim-Burton-like feel to her creations. They come alive before your eyes and ignite your imagination…what’s going to happen next, you wonder. Yes, there’s definitely a graphic novel lurking in Helmetgirl’s wardrobe. Who lives in these houses in ‘Superhero tale’?
Henry Madsen is Danish and a designer (sounding good already, right?) and she’s been part of the Piction Media party for so long she brings her slippers. She’s so talented that if we could frame her, we would, but that might hurt, so instead let’s immortalize her in the Planet Piction blogosphere instead.
We met Henry back in 2003 when we were still based at SAFE studios in Spitalfields. We think it was 2003 - It makes our brains ache just trying to think that far back. Helpfully, the positive memory is mutual. She says:
“The work I did for Picton Media (KDimension) played a big part in my design trajectory. I was freelancing but Matt treated me more like a trainee really, teaching me how to combine my passion for illustration with the practical design world. I studied graphic design and typography at college but Matt taught me how to apply those skills and gave me techniques to use in my illustration work and beyond.”
Henry is more than a bit modest. She didn’t study at any old design college. A graduate of both Kolding School of Design and The Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague (AAAD), her design training is pitch-perfect for terra-forming new visual landscapes. The Department of Graphic Design at AAAD fosters an open system of study, where individual studios act as unique laboratories, places where graphic designers, typographers, illustrators, photographers, film and TV graphic designers and new media artists meet and develop their creative skills. With Masters degrees in graphic design and typography, the connectivity in her training really shows itself in Henry’s ability to translate between disciplines. She has an illustrator’s eye for colour and composition, combined with a web designer’s attention to design structure and function. Check out this witty error page and her latest web design project, both clearly demonstrating this design bilingualism.
This is clearly the type of cross-disciplinary pollination that Henry thrives on: “I enjoyed this project because the client wanted clean and strict combined with some softer girlish illustrated elements. In my work for web, I like the attention to detail and I like to combine my illustration skills with my design knowledge by for example creating custom iconography for sites.”
Of course it all began in Kolding – the leading cultural and educational institution, rooted in Danish cultural heritage. Known for its experimental, original and innovative design education, it fosters in students the ability to see their specialist domain within a societal framework. Henry can’t help herself. She casts an ironic yet warm eye on her subject matter. ‘Señora at the Feria in La Linea’ is an excellent example.
A natural and witty visual communicator and an insightful watcher of people, it’s no surprise that Henry is an appreciator of post-graffiti art. This is art that is taken into the street. This contemporary, public space artwork is much more diverse than traditional territorial graffiti in both media and message. The modern street artist communicates with murals or stencils, LED or street installations. Why not check out Nuart – the annual international contemporary street art festival. Established in 2001, the Festival is based in Stavanger on the West Coast of Norway. Yet another reason to love the Scandinavians.
Giving Henry (and Helmetgirl) almost the last word, she tell us: “I like the darker side, but moving to Spain recently has affected me, I think, as I see more and more sunshine in my work ”
Why not visit Helmetgirl. If you’re quick you’ll find her sipping her favourite tipple Slivovitz in her new home Gibraltar. What is it about Scandinavians and Spain (and hard liquor for that matter)?
Pssst. You know, according to women’s fashonistas, it’s currently cool to wear socks with high-heels. Henry’s already been there and done that. Enough said!)
Ali Kay, 2010
Follow Henry at: